Vendor management: Isn’t it time we get out of the Tinder model?

Like most companies of a certain size, you have a vendor management team. Their mandate is very clear: to ensure that the company does not overpay for its products and services.

What if I told you the model you are using is hurting your business?

The Tinder model

Tinder, the speed dating app, has invented the model of sweep left to reject and sweep right if interested. Long before the arrival of this app, vendors in the tech space could feel this type of treatment. The kind of relationship involved things such as BAFO (Best and Final Offer” and RFPs. It reminds me of the funny scene in Armageddon when referring to the fact that they are sitting in a space shuttle:

You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?” — Rockhound, Armageddon. 

The relationship and procurement rules don’t work. Why? Because you can’t get a deep relationship by swiping right.

Here’s where I see the correlation between our technology acquisition model and Tinder:

  • If I feel like you are not giving me the best price, I will take the next one.
  • If we’re unhappy with the terms of your proposal, we don’t have to take it
  • Here is the exact list of all I need, and if you are not happy with it, someone else will
  • We don’t care which technology is selected, as long as you are the lowest bidder

And I am willingly avoiding all the “scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” unethical non-sense.

Furthermore, I am not saying that one should buy all that is offered without rules and conditions. All I am saying is that a relationship must be built, over time, with care.

The relationship model

Did you ever wonder how some of the most creative shops in the world have only two major vendors? Those are no longer vendors; they are partners because they contribute to each other’s success.

They have chosen to do away from speed dating and one-night stands and to settle into a relationship. One that implies creating depth, understanding and shared goals/interests. 

At Indominus, we believe that vendors unlock benefits through relation’s depth, not threats.

Just like getting married.

What happens when you get married? Suddenly, you are no longer shopping around. You have found the one and are investing in improving this relationship and building upon it. 

That must mean something. Let’s transpose this to technology for a minute.

You decide that you will no longer have different vendors for your IT equipment. You look at what can be gained should you choose to entrust this to a single vendor. You do your research, enter into a negotiation with the large ones, HP, Dell, Lenovo. You validate what can be gained from a deeper, more predictable relationship. And let’s make things interesting, say over the next ten years.

What’s to be gained? 

Let’s create a scenario:

Company ABC must modernize their entire IT over the next three years and is considering its option. All need to be replaced. One of the guiding principles is Simplify.

Company ABC chooses to harmonize these technologies from multiple vendors to a unique vendor model.

  • Network switching
  • Wireless access point
  • Desktops and laptops
  • Tablets
  • Servers
  • Storage

What do you believe is the vendor willing to do to have that type of partnership over the next ten years? 

Vendor can bring to the table: 

  • access to deep management tools at no extra cost
  • pre-configuration services to all desktops and laptops, saving considerable costs to Company ABC
  • Deeper and cheaper support contracts
  • Free training of Company ABC’s staff, so they master the entire product line
  • Have access to their internal architects and products’ engineering teams 
  • Product roadmap access
  • Discussions and inputs with regards to product improvements 
  • Becoming a sponsor for Company ABC’s events
  • Demonstrating how Company ABC is innovating and differentiating with regards to competition

And what is Company ABC willing to do to invest in that partner?

  • Having an open contract for the ten years
  • Becoming a business case for the vendor’s other customers
  • Becoming an advocate for this vendor by being the testimonial customer at events
  • Committing to discussing their future needs with this vendor before anyone else
  • Having staff committed to training and certification on the vendor’s platform
  • Participating in an inclusive design session with the partner 
  • Bring in constructive comments

As you can see, there can be a lot of mutual benefits to vendor’s monogamy.

I can already hear the disciples: but what about the free market? What about fair competition?

Those are nice and well-intentioned concepts on which capitalism is built. I agree they are essential. 

I am talking about something completely different here. We are talking about what is best for Company ABC. Whether they choose Dell, HP or Lenovo is irrelevant. 

What must happen is for their IT to be stable and secure. For their limited IT teams, be in order to operate it efficiently. 

Consider the following Indominus saying:

Expertise is like jam; the more you spread it, the thinner it gets.

Now, if we ponder this in the proposed scenario, you have a potential six different technology stacks and six other vendors. What does this bring to your IT teams in complexity?

Let’s examine that:

  • 6 different management consoles
  • 6 different log formats and error messages
  • 6 different support and update contracts
  • 6 different support teams
  • 6 different training formats
  • 6 different security models and security architectures

Tons of knowledge to accumulate or multiply your team by a factor of 6.

 Oh, and I forgot, we are in a talent shortage. 

What are the next steps for the IT managers?

I strongly recommend that you take time to reflect and discuss this with management. Where do IT managers want the company to be in 5 years? What key systems will be critical? What innovation needs to be unlocked. Can you achieve this by keeping doing what you are doing?

What’s necessary to enable this potential future?

In conclusion

I would invite those that share my passion for architecture, start envisioning. There is excellent potential in discussing with the stakeholders to find out their ideas. What is tomorrow like for them? How could it be better, improved?

Sometimes changes must be profound, but all that is needed is to create the space. 

Those vendors you are dealing with, you already know who has your best interest at heart. They are also, most likely, the ones you are keenest to work with. A discussion doesn’t cost anything, but exchanging ideas has tremendous potential.

Have a great week!